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'How Do You Know' still tagged with an R, but that should change

November 11, 2010 |  4:37 pm

Poor James Brooks. The guy makes only his second movie in 13 years and winds up with his first R rating since "Broadcast News" back in 1987. And for a romantic comedy, no less.

The ratings board at the MPAA on Thursday announced that it was upholding the R rating on appeal for "some language" in the upcoming "How Do You Know." But the the fight isn't over yet.

Sony could yet make a small change and wind up with a PG-13 -- a rating the studio wants for the Reese Witherspoon-Paul Rudd romance, which comes out December 17, to lure younger viewers. A source close to the studio, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are ongoing, said that, even after the appeal, landing the less-severe rating was a matter of changing just a few words, and that Sony was making plans to do that and release "How Do You Know" as a PG-13 movie.

It's unclear how much a PG-13 will help the film- -- is it a movie teens will go to with their friends, or just with their parents (if at all)? But given how crowded the holiday season is, and how hard a time non-branded movies have at the box office these days, a PG-13 can't hurt. (It certainly didn't for Brooks' blockbuster "As Good as It Gets," which grossed nearly $150 million back in 1997.)

It's been a tough few months for the MPAA. The group was pilloried for handing an NC-17 to the relationship drama "Blue Valentine" because of what distributor the Weinstein Co. said was a hotel sex scene, and gave an R to the period drama "The King's Speech" because of a scene in which Colin Firth tries to overcome his repression by rattling off some swear words.

But maybe more than anything, the R for "How Do You Know," a studio comedy from an older director, is reminiscent of the same rating for Nancy Meyers' "It's Complicated" last year due to a pot-smoking moment. That R stuck, but the stakes were lower for that film: a love triangle between Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin may be aiming for a slightly different audience than one with Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson.

--Steven Zeitchik




Photo: Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd in 'How Do You Know.' Credit: Sony Pictures


The MPAA's mystifying call on Blue Valentine



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